Blaubeuren is halfway between Stuttgart and Munich, has 12,500 inhabitants and, until a few weeks ago, had the largest meteorite ever found in Germany in a home garden. The 30-kilogram and 26-gram stone had been there since 1989, while carrying out the works on a house, a group of workers found it. Immediately they realized that it was something strange, very heavy and high in iron content. Right after, they did nothing.
In 2015, the owner was about to throw it away, but it finally left him rooted in the basement. Until a few months ago, someone in the family thought to contact the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The Center commissioned several tests and the results have been conclusive. “Benthullen”, the 17-kilo meteorite that hitherto held the record in the Teutonic country, lost its crown. There was a sheriff in town.
But, how much are 30 kilos in this world? In other words, does being the largest meteorite in Germany mean anything in this context? What are the largest meteorites found on Earth?
The difficult task of organizing the list of the world’s largest meteorites
Although the Inuit knew the iron masses of Cape York from time immemorial and used them to extract metal. It was not until 1818, during the first John Ross expedition, that Western explorers got to know the place. However, between that date and 1883, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden organized up to five expeditions to find them. Vainly. It was not until 1894 when Robert E. Peary found them on what is now known as Meteorite Island, north of Greenland.
Today they are in the American Museum of Natural History in New York and, beyond the eternal conflict over whether the stones were stolen or not, it is a good example of the history of most of the great meteorites that we have found. They are rare, huge pieces, difficult to weigh. Pieces that were usually found by peasants or local people and “rediscovered” for international science by some traveling geologist.
That happened in Sinaloa 1863 when a group of farmers from the Bacubirito syndicate found a twenty-two-ton metal piece while working in the area, but it was the geologist Gilbert Ellis Bailey who took credit. It also happened with Mbozi, a 16-ton metallic meteorite, which although it was well known to the inhabitants of that region of Tanzania, was ‘rediscovered’ in the 1930s.
However, it is not a simple matter of recognition. In general, until very few years ago, weighing meteorites was really complex. In fact, even today, if we look at various international rankings we will be surprised to see that the figures are constantly dancing. And, what’s more, for centuries many of these pieces were used as mineral sources (so it is not known for sure how much they previously weighed).
Be that as it may, and beyond the methodological difficulties, we do know who are the undisputed kings of this complicated ranking. Beyond the huge Cape York, Bacubirito or Mbozi, to see the heavyweights we have to go on a trip to the Southern Hemisphere